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What are the Indians thinking with Justin Masterson?

Mar 21, 2014, 1:40 PM EDT

Justin Masterson Getty AP

The word was that Justin Masterson was asking for a three-year deal valued at less than the $17.5 million Homer Bailey received. What’s more, that he was willing to take a 2-3 year contract too. Which, for a front-line starter, is insanely reasonable. But, as reported last night, the Indians weren’t willing to go that high and broke off negotiations with Masterson. He’ll likely hit free agency at the end of the season.

A few moments ago Indians GM Chris Antonetti spoke. He said the door is open to restart negotiations, but given that it’s believed the Indians made Masterson a two-year offer of only about $25 million, there’s not much of a reason for him to listen to them now. He’s making nearly $10 million this year alone on an arbitration-avoiding deal. Masterson is coming off a 3.45 ERA and 195/76 K/BB ratio over 193 innings last season. He has pitched 180 or more innings for each of the past four years. Homer Bailey is a year younger and has had similar numbers to Masterson. He just got a six-year deal at the average annual salary Masterson was seeking from the Indians on a two or three year deal. How is that too rich?

If Masterson has even an average season, he’s going to make far, far more than a $12-13 million average annual salary. And there is no way the Indians will be able to replace his production at anywhere close to the price they just rejected.

  1. shaggylocks - Mar 21, 2014 at 1:58 PM

    Do the Indians ever actually try to hold on to impending free agents? I don’t follow the organization and don’t really know what they do and don’t do when it comes to locking up talent, but I remember a time not too long ago when they had an enviable roster with the likes of CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, and Victor Martinez, and I remember each getting traded away right before becoming free agents.

  2. Pat Richardson - Mar 21, 2014 at 1:59 PM

    Feels to me like a financial move, like Indians brass has decided that there aren’t ANY pitchers worth 17 mil and that they would rather have the compensation pick than Masterson in the future. Insane, of course, but that’s the best I can come up with.

    • jm91rs - Mar 21, 2014 at 3:41 PM

      Exactly what I was thinking. The starting pitcher market has gone through the roof and if The Indians don’t want to play that game that’s their right. They’re screwing themselves but that’s their right.

  3. Francisco (FC) - Mar 21, 2014 at 2:35 PM

    What are the Indians thinking with Justin Masterson?

    The mistake is to assume that they are thinking at all.

  4. nsstlfan - Mar 21, 2014 at 2:44 PM

    He wasn’t asking for 17 mil. An article from last month said he was asking for like 10 mil or a little more.

  5. Old Gator - Mar 21, 2014 at 2:49 PM

    Antonetti sounds like he went out and got drunk with Scrooge McLoria last night.

    • cshearing - Mar 21, 2014 at 3:00 PM

      I regret that I have only one thumb to give for this comment.

    • professor59 - Mar 21, 2014 at 6:04 PM

      It’s OK, though. Irsay was the designated driver.

  6. chunkala - Mar 21, 2014 at 3:10 PM

    Craig really should have went into the Agent business.
    He sees only the upside for the players and never any downside for ownership.
    Masterson had a really good year last season…in a contract year.
    History tells us that this often the case, and then once a new contract is signed his ERA will balloon up to 5-6.
    He’s far from any kind of stud pitcher like Kershaw or Verlander, so the odds say that he’ll have a down year in 2014. Taking a course in probability and game theory would really help with your assessments.

    • shutdownespn - Mar 21, 2014 at 3:32 PM

      And you really should have “went” to school a bit more. It would seem you missed third grade, given the quality of your writing.

    • raysfan1 - Mar 21, 2014 at 3:32 PM

      Last year was an arbitration year–this is the contract year.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 21, 2014 at 6:11 PM

      so the odds say that he’ll have a down year in 2014. Taking a course in probability and game theory would really help with your assessments.

      That’s not how it works.

  7. janessa31888 - Mar 21, 2014 at 4:36 PM

    /sobs in despair.

  8. offseasonblues - Mar 21, 2014 at 5:58 PM

    I wish there were an opening for him to come back to in Boston. Don and Jerry miss the cookies.

  9. realitypolice - Mar 21, 2014 at 7:11 PM

    Why is it that when we talk about an organization like the Indians not paying a pitcher top dollar we criticize them mercilessly and compare them to crappy organizations like the Marlins yet no one ever brings up the Rays, who have NEVER paid a pitcher? In fact, it’s highly doubtful the Rays would even have paid the $10M the Indians paid this year to keep JM out of arbitration.

    There’s more than one way to build a rotation and I seem to remember alot of teams spending alot more on their staffs last year and NOT make the Wild Card, like the Indians and the Rays did.

    • raysfan1 - Mar 21, 2014 at 9:43 PM

      David Price contract: $14,000,000. If he offered to sign for 2-3 years at $17.5M per year, I’d bet the Rays would give it serious thought and might go for it.

      Are the Indians as budget-constrained as the Rays? If they could not afford the contract, then that’s understandable.

      • realitypolice - Mar 21, 2014 at 9:52 PM

        I didn’t realize the Rays were paying Price that much. My bad. Doesn’t change the point that the Rays have had a great deal of success without overpaying pitchers.

      • arizonagrit - Mar 21, 2014 at 10:17 PM

        That’s because the Rays draft better pitchers than the Indians so they can do stuff like that.

  10. weaselpuppy - Mar 21, 2014 at 7:26 PM

    They’re thinking he isn’t that great and that Homer Bailey being massively overpaid for one year of good work and 3 of really meh work shouldn’t set the market.

  11. forsch31 - Mar 21, 2014 at 9:56 PM

    >>>”The word was that Justin Masterson was asking for a three-year deal valued at less than the $17.5 million Homer Bailey received. ”

    Well, not much less. According to Paul Hoyes, the 3-year offer from Masterson’s agent was worth $51 million….or $17 million a year. The two-year offer was for $35 million, which falls right on $17.5 million a year. Masterson was giving the Indians a break on years, not salary.

    One thing that may be causing the Indians hesitation is that Masterson is coming off the second best year he’s had in the majors. His 2012, meanwhile, was one of his worst, featuring a 4.93 ERA with a 1.81 SO/BB ratio, which is below his career average.

    • forsch31 - Mar 21, 2014 at 9:58 PM

      Also, Dave Cameron at Fangraphs brings up another possible reason: That Bailey’s contract was an overpay based on what other pitchers got this off-season, and isn’t the market-setter that Masterson and his agent using it for.

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